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Leclerc hopes F1 finds balance between lighter cars and "very impressive" downforce

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc hopes Formula 1 can find a good balance between reduced weight and its "very impressive" downforce levels for the 2026 regulations.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari

The ballooning weight of current-era F1 cars has become increasingly unpopular with drivers and teams, with this year's minimum weight of 798kg well over 200kg higher compared to cars from 15 years ago.

It is one of the key aspects FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem wants to tackle for the next 2026 regulations cycle, even though most teams reckon F1 would do well to keep car weight on a similar level following the proposed 50/50 split between electric power and power from the V6 engines, which will require heavier batteries.

Ferrari's Leclerc has joined his peers in wishing the weight of the cars can be brought down, but also hopes the 2023-era's "very impressive" downforce levels can be maintained.

"I arrived in 2018 and the cars were already quite heavy," Leclerc told Autosport in an exclusive interview.

"I drove a 2003 car in Abu Dhabi with 50 kilos of fuel, but you can definitely feel the difference with today's car. I don't like heavy cars. I think for the agility of the car and for also the slow speed corners, now you can really feel the weight.

"But I have to say that what we are experiencing in medium to high speed with the downforce we have today is incredible compared to 12 or 13 years ago, and this is very impressive.

"So, I think it's a balance. I wouldn't want to go higher than the weight we have now, that's for sure. But also going very light compromises also the aero that we have because the car is huge, and that produces also a lot more aero compared to 12 years ago."

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F2003 GA, leads Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F2003 GA, leads Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren

Photo by: Peter Spinney / Motorsport Images

Leclerc found F1's current ground-effect cars "more unpredictable" to drive but thinks teams will continue to find improvements as the regulations become more mature.

"They are run a very different way compared to the last era," Leclerc explained. "The last 10 to 15 years the cars were more or less run in the same way. Now it's a very different philosophy.

"For all the teams, it's still quite a new philosophy, because it's only been a year and a half, so there's still a lot of margin to improve.

"And these cars are also a lot more sensitive to all the changes you do, and you can go from very good to very bad, with a very small change. So, this makes things a bit more unpredictable.'

Speaking to Autosport's sister website Motorsport-Total.com, FIA president Ben Sulayem said the desire for lighter cars is shared between the FIA and F1.

"We are looking at that. It is doable, and it would be better for everyone involved," he said.

"It comes to the main point why we are doing this, which actually is to make sure that we achieve what we promised, which is an 80 per cent reduction of emissions."

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"Maybe we are a bit over-optimistic. We say our target is an 80 per cent improvement, which comes from a lighter car, from the ICE, from the battery, from aerodynamics, from less fuel.

"All of that combined makes a difference. If you take one out of the equation, we will not reach our goal."

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